bootslack

Pure signal.

American Racisim/Monolingualism and Bullshit

If this seems out of context, I left it as a comment on another blog, and then decided I want to develop it into a post. In the mean-time I’m just going to stick it here as is, it is in progress so feel free to comment and help me massage it into a final piece. I think the idea is pretty clear — people who bash on immigrants for speaking English poorly are fuckheads, but at the same time I support a monolingual United States (for reasons which follow not because I think God speaks English or something) — also I think the claims of American racism are greatly exaggerated, I think we are probably the least racist culture in the world, also for reasons which follow.

Feel free to comment, and even to be a dick to me if you need to be, so long as you are intelligent. If you barf up a bunch of quotations from Rush Limbaugh or Howard Zinn I probably will delete your comment.

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I used to work at the Bilingual Orientation Center in Seattle (for the public high schools) we provided support for 19 languages for immigrants. I didn’t actually learn any of them — I just maintained the computers. I loved hearing all the languages spoken in the halls, watching the different groups trying to interact, finding common ground. I’m glad English is the national language, because we have greater cultural diversity here than anywhere in the world, and without a center to focus on those kids would be totally screwed. On the other hand, jingoistic assholes who freak out on other people for not being able to speak the language well are a profound disappointment to me personally. Do you volunteer anywhere to teach immigrants English? I always ask that, and the assholes always say no. People who actually work with immigrants tend to be impressed with them — for the most part they are pretty amazing people. The children speaking 19 different languages in that school are better behaved than any other school I have ever worked in, they have to be.

But I am also disgusted by people from foreign countries who bash on racism in America. We have supported the immigration of more people here than any other country on Earth. We bring “the problem” of people getting along together here right into our lives and we work and spend and deal with it like no-one in Europe, or Asia or Australia. Europeans have only barely been getting on with each other for about 40 years. There are surely individuals in the US (just like everywhere) who are an embarrassment to the species, but as a Nation we are a couple of laps beyond the next contender back in terms of forging bonds between diverse groups of people. And part of why that works is having a single language — a single culture in the background that all the other cultures can define themselves against, so that people who speak Spanish and English can talk to people who speak to Vietnamese and English. I’ve seen it work day after day.

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December 8, 2007 - Posted by | Uncategorized

1 Comment »

  1. Next to the Declaration of Indypendencia and the Constitu (the tion has been removed by BushCo, Inc.) the Statue of Liberty stands (no pun intended) as the symbol and the guiding principle of the US. That’s what this is all about: send us your rejects. Americans have been kicked out of all the “decent” countries in the World. Come on over and join US, we’ll figure out some way to make it work. The epitome of the US of A is the fact that Nevada and Utah are right next to each other. NYC is a microcosm of that macrocosm.

    RE: language bigots… I’m always amazed at anyone who can figure out how to speak English, especially if the person is a native speaker of an Oriental language with barely any similarities to European languages except for the fact that both are produced by speaking. American English is basically Old German (Freisian) with a shitload of French, Latin and Greek wedged in. Recently (last few hundred years) Spanish has been working its way in, especially in former Spanish colonies (Alta California, Florida, etc.). The spelling is atrociously haphazard and arbitrary. Certainly, one can get by with a few thousand words, but fluency is practically impossible for anyone not born into it.

    And so… I always try to put myself in their place and realize that, yes they may be stumbling over a simple sentence, but how well do I speak Chinese? If I had to ask for help in Haiti, could I? If I chose to live in Brazil, how long would it take me to learn Portuguese? I cut them a lot of slack, and give them mass props for trying. I’m sure that when my ancestors came here from England, Ireland, Germany, etc. they had a rough time getting used to the local dialect and customs. Now that we’ve been here over two hundred years, it’s our turn to help the noobs.

    Comment by Chuk! | December 8, 2007 | Reply


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